The intervening night preceding the swearing-in of BS Yeddyurappa saw a high-wire drama that spilled on to daybreak, as Congress knocked on the doors of the Supreme Court to plea for a stay. The midnight hearing that went on for more than three hours, was the first time the apex court opened its doors after the hearing for the execution of Yakub Memon.Late Wednesday night, as soon as the BJP’s Karnataka unit declared the swearing-in time of the chief minister, the Congress swung into action and sought permission for an urgent hearing. Appearing as counsel for Karnataka Congress president G Parameshwara and JD (S) chief HD Kumaraswamy, Congress MP Abhishek Manu Singhvi reached the office of Secretary General of the Supreme Court Registry Ravindra Maithani, seeking an urgent hearing. He submitted a petition, where the primary plase were to defer the swearing-in of the BJP’s legislators and to reduce the time given by governor Vajubhai Vala to the BJP of 15 days to prove majority.After perusing the petition, Maithani made his way to the house of the Chief Justice of India, where a gathering of scribes had already assembled anticipating some drama. Hours before the action enfolded, it is learnt that the Congress started gathering its forces in Delhi. Singhvi was in Chandigarh earlier that day and made his way to Delhi by late afternoon. From its Bangalore war room, the party dispatched Lingayat leader Basavaraju AP with a dossier of crucial papers.At the CJI’s house, Maithani stayed inside for close to an hour, as discussions went on inside. Singhvi was seen sitting inside his car outside the Supreme Court all along waiting for a word. At around 1:20am, as Maithani made his way out of the CJI’s residence, word finally got out that the matter will be heard by 1:45 am at court room no 6, by a three-member bench headed by Justice AK Sikri. Justices Arvind Bobde and Ashok Bhushan were to comprise the bench.The announcement volleyed through a flurry of activity towards the Supreme Court, which prepared to hold the hearing.Soon, inside the court, the counsels gathered. Singhvi was the first to appear with a group of lawyers; former attorney general Mukul Rohatgi joined in a few minutes later.As soon as the arguments began, Singhvi contended that the swearing-in be deferred and that the time given to the governor be lessened, as it was a “constitutional sin giving a fillip to poaching” of MLAs by the BJP.His main contentions were that the while the governor enjoyed immunity, his discretion cannot be considered final. Countering it, Rohatgi sought the dismissal of the petition on the grounds that the governor is a constitutional authority and is above court orders.Strengthening his arguments, Singhvi mentioned several past judgements in similar matters, and contended that as per convention, the order of preference in a post-poll situation is this: first, an alliance of parties that are formed prior to elections, then, the single largest party staking claim with the support of others, including ‘independents’, while at third stands a post-electoral coalition of parties. The last, as per preference, is the single largest party without the requisite majority.He also referred to the Sarkaria Commission report, and the judgements in the Bommai case where the role of the governor was laid down as one without absolute finality, and then the Kavlekar judgement after the Congress turned single largest party in Goa without majority.Rohatgi contended the immunity of the office of the governor and said that the governor’s actions “can be set aside, but cannot be questioned”. He said that the swearing-in should be allowed and if the petitioners are right, the swearing-in could be reversed. He thundered that the petition did not warrant a midnight hearing, and said that he rushed to the court after two MLAs saw the developments on TV and called him. Singhvi accused him of appearing on proxy of Yeddyurappa, while the bench never asked him about the clients. It was later discovered that the petitioners are BJP MLAs Govind M Karjol, CM Udasi and Basavaraj Bommai.During the arguments, Attorney General KK Venugopal appearing in to assist the bench, stated that the defection law kicks in only after MLAs swear in, raising several eyebrows. Justices Sikri and Bhushan were quick to reply: “Does it imply that suitcase exchanges are made possible before the MLAs are sworn in. That is impermissible.”Singhvi had argued that the letter written by Yeddyurappa to governor Vala staking claim had mentioned only 104 MLAs. “I also have good reason to believe that he had asked for seven days to prove majority,” Singhvi said.In reply, appearing furious for the last moment arguments, Rohatgi told the bench that the letter was not in his hands at the moment and sought time till late Friday evening.After hearing both sides, the bench refused to stay the swearing-in, but stated that the swearing-in is now conditional on the aforementioned letter, and that it must be produced in court at 10:30 am Friday. “We are not staying the swearing in, but it will be subjective to what the letter entails,” the bench held.ARGUMENTS — FOR AND AGAINST IN SUPREME COURTAbhishek SinghviThe swearing-in should be deferred and the time given to the Governor be lessened, as it’s a ‘Constitutional sin, giving a fillip to poaching’ of MLAs by the BJP. While the Governor enjoyed immunity, his discretion cannot be considered final.Mukul RohatgiThe petition should be dismissed on the grounds that the Governor is a Constitutional authority and is above court orders.SinghviAs per convention, the order of preference in a post-poll situation is this: first, an alliance of parties that are formed prior to elections, then, the single largest party staking claim with the support of others, including ‘independents’, while at third stands a post-electoral coalition of parties. The last, as per preference, is the single largest party without the requisite majority.The Sarkaria Commission report, and the judgments in the Bommai case where the role of the Governor was laid down as one without absolute finality, and then the Kavlekar judgment after the Congress turned single largest party in Goa without majority are examples.RohatgiThe office of the Governor enjoys immunity. The Governor’s actions can be set aside, but cannot be questioned. The swearing-in should be allowed and if the petitioners are right, the swearing-in could be reversed. This petition does not even warrant a midnight hearing. I rushed to the court after two MLAs saw the developments on TV and called me.SinghviRohatgi is appearing as proxy of Yeddyurappa. (It was later discovered that the petitioners are BJP MLAs Govind M Karjol, CM Udasi and Basavaraj Bommai.)Attorney General KK VenugopalThe defection law kicks in only after MLAs swear in, raising several eyebrows.Justices Sikri & BhushanDoes it imply that suitcase exchanges are made possible before the MLAs are sworn in. That is impermissible.SinghviThe letter written by Yeddyurappa to Governor Vala staking claim had mentioned only 104 MLAs. I also have good reason to believe that he had asked for seven days to prove majority.RohatgiI don’t have the letter with the moment. I will be requiring time till late Friday evening for producing the letter.Justices Sikri & BhushanWe are not staying the swearing in, but it will be subjective to what the letter entails. The swearing-in is now conditional on the aforementioned letter, and it must be produced in court at 10:30 am on Friday.
Abhishek Manu Singhvi
Karnataka Assembly Elections 2018
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